From winning Wimbledon to triumphing on his debut in the Aegon British Tour in Felixstowe, be it as a tennis coach or a player, Suffolk’s Matt Hough has a very bright future
Suffolk county tennis champion Matt Hough recently lifted the Aegon Men’s Singles British Tour title at Felixstowe. WILL RIDGARD caught up with him to talk about all things tennis including his playing and coaching career, winning Wimbledon, representing Great Britain and how it felt to lift the Felixstowe title on his debut in the event.
The summer months are often hectic for budding tennis stars as they look to propel themselves onto the big stage with various tournament successes across the country, and for Matt Hough, a full-time self-employed tennis coach at Ipswich-based tennis clubs David Lloyd and Roundwood, things are no different.
A little over two weeks ago, he entered the Men’s Singles British Tour (tier two) for the first time, and quite astonishingly, blew all opponents away as he lifted the trophy following a 7-6, 6-4 win over Adam Skalsky in the final – not bad for a tournament debut!
Having served as the late Elena Baltacha’s hitting partner for two years as well as holding his position as the current men’s Suffolk champion for the last two years, maybe this success comes as little surprise to some.
But, having been out of the playing and competing loop for much of his tennis career – he has mainly focused his attentions on coaching and developing others – the victory certainly came as a surprise to him.
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“I have played lots of Junior tournaments at Felixstowe before, but this was my first British Tour so to win on my debut is an amazing achievement,” said Hough, who lives in Hadleigh.
“I was confident in my ability that if I played well I could be in with a shout, but to actually do it was immense.
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“I knew my game suited the grass, but coming up against full-time players with me being a full-time coach, I maybe didn’t think it was possible!”
Hough’s CV is pretty impressive. Since first swinging a racquet at three-years-old, with thanks to his two older brothers Andy and David, Hough was consistently in the top 10 for his age group right through juniors where he represented Great Britain in a competitive event twice as well as winning the 2003 Road to Wimbledon National Doubles title at Wimbledon itself with partner Ashley Watling, also from Suffolk.
After winning more junior county titles than any other player and with such promise at a young age, why then, did Hough put those playing dreams on hold?
“At 14 I stopped competing nationally and took the coaching route as that’s what was most practical for me.”
However, he always missed playing and decided the Felixstowe event was the perfect starting point back on the national ladder.
“For the last four or five years I’ve been thinking that maybe I should explore playing more and more,” confessed Hough.
“I’ve always had a small regret of not continuing, and this side of Christmas that aspiration grew so much I felt it was about time I acted, so I entered the Felixstowe Tour to test my belief that I thought I could play it.”
Defeating fellow Ipswich player Matthew Kirby (6-4, 4-6, 6-1) and William Huyton (6-2, 6-2), a player Hough has taught previously at Hills Road Sports & Tennis Centre in Cambridgeshire, wasn’t exactly the easiest of beginnings in his Tour debut.
“I have played several people who I coach or I have coached and it’s the same as playing a good friend,” admitted Hough. “Naturally, you’re always a little bit more tight and nervous but you just have to leave that to one side and treat them as any other opponent.”
Having made his way into the final following a semi-final triumph over Jack Findel-Hawkins – a victory Hough cites as his most impressive as Findel-Hawkins plays full-time in the USA – he overcame the challenge of Surrey-based Adam Skalsky for the £400 prize.
“The first set was tight which you expect in a final, but it’s always vital to win it and be solid which I did,” he said.
“From there I just gained confidence and played my normal game.
“It felt amazing to win and proved that I can play at that level.
“I’ve got to thank a fair few people though – obviously mum, dad and brothers for getting me in the game in first place and supporting my tennis and then some really good close friends and certain things that have helped in so many ways to make me believe and get to the point of acting on the idea of playing again.”
With this new-found enthuasiasm to compete again, juggling coaching and playing has left Hough’s diary bulging at the seams but he wouldn’t have it any other way.
At present, Hough is currently a member of the David Lloyd Ipswich coaching team, as well as Ipswich Girls School, and more recently Roundwood Tennis Club, also in Ipswich.
Ranging from beginners to county and national players from as young as three-years-old right up to adults, Hough thrives in his role – particularly at Roundwood Tennis Club, which was been in existence for more than 100 years.
“The people involved at Roundwood are fantastic – they are a small club but so so friendly and welcoming,” he said.
“They want the club to grow and be a success, and I wanted to be involved in helping their aims and really make a difference.”
Be it coaching or playing, one thing looks certain – Hough has a bright future ahead.
If you want tennis coaching from Hough, call him on 07525867720.